On the Examination of Conscience

St. Stephen Urosh, King of Serbia

St. Stephen Urosh, King of Serbia

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

ON THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE

"This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men" (Acts 24:16).

"Therefore, since we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:1-2).

"For how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14).

[Commentary: "Christ, in contrast to the Old Testament high priest, is High Priest of the New Covenant (Testament). He enters the Heavenly Sanctuary (1) "once for all" (v. 12)--Christ's one Sacrifice covers all sins by all people for all time--and (2) with "the Blood of Christ" (v. 14), His own human blood, which (a) heals corrupt humanity (v. 13, "the flesh"); (b) restores us to proper relationship to God, pure (v. 14, "cleanse our conscience"), and holy; and (c) draws us near to God in liturgical worship (v. 14), ("serve the living God"). "Dead works" (see 6:1) are human activity in and of this age, participating in mortality and corruption (and normally even sin). Liturgically "dead works" are the actions of Old Covenant worship. Hebrews 9:14. This reference to the "eternal spirit" is proof that the Holy Spirit is fully God." (Source: Orthodox Study Bible, page 527)]

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Saint John Chrysostom writes that we should examine ourselves before we sleep and offers two reasons for it. First, that the next day we may be better prepared to protect ourselves from the mistakes we have committed; because if we examine ourselves well over night, and feel great sorrow for our mistakes, and be willing to correct them, it is certain that this will serve as a way to prevent us from falling into them again the following day. Secondly, the prospect of examining ourselves at night will be an occasion of greater recollection all the day long; for remembering that we have, on the very same day, to give account of what we had done, will make us stand more upon our guard, and pay greater attention to what we do. As a nobleman, says, Saint John Chrysostom, who preserves order in his family, lest no day pass without calling his steward to an account, to prevent him from being careless and confused in it; even so it is good that we also track our actions daily, so that we may maintain constant remembrance of what has transpired and avoid forgetfulness and cause disorder in them. Saint Dorotheos of Gaza writes that through our daily examination, and by daily repenting of our faults, we hinder them from taking deeper root in our heart, and prevent our bad habits from growing stronger.

The conscience of those who do not examine themselves is like a neglected vineyard, which, because it is not cultivated, is presently overgrown with thorns and prickly shrubs. For our corrupt nature is so bad a soil, that of itself it produces nothing but weeds; and therefore we must always have our pruning-hook in our hand, and engage ourselves in cutting or rooting them out.

"The Church of the faithful embodies the "Conscience of the Church" ("Συνείδησις της Εκκλησίας") in its pronouncements and missions. Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of the Church, is "the Lord God. Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8), Who has erected, established, and bequeathed to the Church the Divine Grace which is the almighty power. Therefore, the Militant Church on earth is a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, for the King is ever present to lead and sanctify the members of His own Mystical Body. He is "Jesus Christ, Who is the faithful witness, and the first-begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Revelation 1:5).

"The Christian conscience is created in the heart of each faithful, not as a result of knowledge nor of any teaching. It is due to the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit Who opens the eyes of the soul to an understanding of the Promises. This conscience is not developed separately from the rest of the Body of the Church in one person but in an unbroken Bond with all members, since all received one Holy Spirit and were Regenerated in one Spring of Life.

"We must never forget that although our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did not leave any writings He gave us "the Promise of the Father," the "Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father." In conclusion, when we speak about the conscience of the Church, Apostolic and Ecclesiastical Prudence, we do not mean only that conscience which is created by the influence of human factors, but that which by the Grace of the Holy Spirit within the Orthodox Church. This is given to all those who truly believe and have the ability to distinguish, understand and receive the Truth of Divine Revelation written in their hearts."

Syneidesis, meaning "conscience," first appears in Wis. 17:11. Prior to that in the Hebrew Bible the word refers to knowing and the function of conscience was laid to the heart.

Strengthened by Jesus, Saint Paul finds an abundance of faith and love where blasphemy, persecution, and insolence once ruled (see Romans 5:20). Saint Paul's newfound faith is dogmatic (he is no longer, "without knowledge," agnoon, 13) and personal (to believe "in him," ep' auto, 16).

Saint Paul exemplifies what can result from this instruction (Timothy1:5), which is "love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith". Thus he calls attention to the abundant faith and love in Christ Jesus (Timothy1:4) and the good conscience of one saved from sin (Timothy1:3).

The first Orthodox theologian to write an independent essay on the "conscience" of the Church was Professor Alivizatos, who gave the following definition:

"Church conscience is the innermost conviction of every Christian for the absolute correctness and stability of Church faith, confessed in all its details and based on Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as well as the formation of a wider and universal Church understanding through a conscientious and conscious defense. Its purity depends on the responsible, spiritual and altogether Orthodox enlightenment and education by the shepherding Church, which constitutes the sure criterion and at the same time the unique standard of the true substance and stability of the Church and of genuine Church life."

See Mouratides, The Essence and the Polity of the Church, 17: "Church conscience, namely the unanimous common opinion of clergy and laity, even though it cannot be defined into some organic manifestation, constitutes the highest power above the Ecumenical Synods; their final designation as ecumenical does not depend so much on that they are called such, as on their recognition as ecumenical by the conscience of the Church."

"From a careful Study of the above lengthy definition, which truly expresses the broad content of the term 'Church conscience' all its aspects, an inner tension that seeks ultimate harmony within a unity of two spiritual poles ascertained and emphasized as is the case in all other measures of spiritual life, in other words, there are two aspects of Church conscience: on the one hand that of a conscience growing dynamically, and on the other hand that of a conscience demanded for responsible mission." A Alivazatos, 'The Conscience of the Church', Academic Directory of the Theological School of the University of Athens (1955): 28.

A Alivazatos writes: 

"Firstly, the conscious understanding and disposition and activity of the shepherding Church towards the positive creation of Church conscience, through a thoroughly genuine and precise teaching, free from distortion and falsification that distorts the spirit and the essence of Orthodoxy. And secondly, the correct and vigilant attendance of the conscience, once it has been shaped, and the endeavor for the preservation of the well meaning and proper stability of the Church." (A Alivizatos, The Conscience of the Church, 38, see also 36 and 37.) Source: The Infallibility of the Church in Orthodox Theology. Author: Stylianos, Archbishop of Australia.

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George